ALBANY, N.Y. (January 18, 2019) — A new report from public education advocacy organization the Alliance for Quality Education examines student poverty levels in schools that Governor Cuomo says local districts are overfunding. The report is titled The Real Numbers: Gov. Cuomo’s Educational Equity Hoax. It shows that the state’s high need school districts have very few or zero wealthy schools, and that Governor Cuomo’s proposed solution to educational inequity is to require high needs school districts to take money away from very high poverty schools and redistribute it to even higher poverty schools.
Governor Cuomo asserts that high need school districts are distributing too much funding to “wealthy schools,” but the definition of “wealthy schools” he is relying on includes schools in the Big 5 school districts with student poverty rates as high as:
- 78 percent students in poverty in Buffalo;
- 88 percent students in poverty in Rochester;
- 73 percent students in poverty in Syracuse;
- 69 percent students in poverty in Yonkers, and
- 62 percent students in poverty in New York City.
“By any sincere definition, the schools in these districts that Governor Cuomo labels ‘wealthy’ are in fact high poverty schools, and would be the highest poverty schools in the vast majority of average need as well as truly wealthy school districts,” the report finds.
“Governor Cuomo is intentionally distorting the facts on education equity in New York schools. He wants to shift the blame to school districts for a problem that his policies have exacerbated. Cuomo’s education equity hoax is a distraction from the facts. School districts in wealthy ZIP Codes offer a high quality education to all their students and school districts in low income ZIP Codes are struggling to meet the growing needs of students. New York State needs to step up and fully fund the Foundation Aid formula in order truly close the equity gap,” said Jasmine Gripper, legislative director, Alliance for Quality Education.
In devising his policy proposals for 2019-20 Governor Cuomo has relied heavily on a policy paper recently prepared by Jim Malatras, Cuomo’s former Director of Operations and current president of SUNY’s Rockefeller Institute. However, even the Malatras report shows that New York City and Rochester spend more per pupil in their highest poverty schools than in other schools and that Syracuse spending “is fairly evenly distributed.” Ignoring these facts, Governor Cuomo blames the school districts for the massive educational inequities across the state, inequities for which the state is responsible and that Governor Cuomo’s policies have intensified. New York has a spending gap of $9,923 between wealthy and poor school districts, a gap that has grown 24 percent during the eight years of the Cuomo Administration.
The Board of Regents, and the Alliance for Quality Education, have both called for a $1.66 billion increase in Foundation Aid this year and a three year phase-in of the $4.1 billion in Foundation Aid owed under current state law. The Foundation Aid formula, enacted in response to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, was designed to ensure that all schools statewide have the resources needed to ensure every student receives the “sound, basic education” that New York State’s constitution guarantees. By contrast Cuomo is proposing a mere $338 million increase in Foundation Aid and opposes a full phase-in of this funding. His policies shortchange high need small city, rural and suburban school districts.